Wright odd man out in Collins' new rotation

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Wright odd man out in Collins' new rotation

For now, Sixers head coach Doug Collins has found a rotation that he is going to stick with.

That means that barely two weeks after he took a DNP-CD in a seven-point victory over the Rockets and was deemed out of the rotation by the coach, Nick Young will continue to start for the Sixers.

The next trick for Collins is to “build a bench.”

“We started out with a different group and now we’re trying to create a bench,” Collins explained following Tuesday’s practice at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. “We’ve had Jason Richardson in and out and [Nick Young] was out for a while and Jrue (Holiday) was out for a while. Now we’re going with a starting lineup that gets us off to better starts and two of our offensive guys are starting and we have a defensive bench. I have to make sure I have enough scoring on the floor when [I go to the bench].”

Young started the last two games, scoring 20 points in a blowout victory over the Knicks and 13 in a loss against the Grizzlies. Meanwhile, since being benched and removed from the rotation, Young has averaged 14.7 points in six games while shooting 45.1 percent from the field and 35.5 percent from three-point range.

With Richardson expected to miss his fifth straight game with an injured left knee on Wednesday, Collins has decided to use his bench for defense.

In other words, expect Damien Wilkins and Royal Ivey to continue to log minutes off the bench, along with Lavoy Allen and Kwame Brown coming on to spell Spencer Hawes and Thad Young in the frontcourt.

The player on the outside looking in for all of this? Dorell Wright.

“I’ve just gone to a different starting lineup,” Collins said. “The guys I’m bringing off the bench, I’m going to a little bit more of a defensive mindset.”

It’s been an up-and-down year for Wright to say the least. He did not see action in either of the last two games and played a combined 25 minutes in the three games prior to that. However, Wright was invaluable at the start of the season for Collins, who used the veteran as a starter when Richardson missed some games with a sprained ankle.

Wright buried a three-pointer in the first eight games and in 10 of the first 11. He averaged nearly 13 points and nearly 30 minutes of playing time through the first seven games of the season.

And then Wright was on a Yo-yo between the middle and the fringe of the rotation. Still, despite sporadic playing time, Wright scored 20-plus in back-to-back games in December during the trips to Dallas and Houston. He also scored a season-high 28 points on 11 shots in a victory on Dec. 26 in Memphis.

But since the calendar flipped to 2013, Wright has averaged 5.9 points in his last 11 appearances, though he has shot the three-pointer reasonably well at 34.3 percent (12 for 35).

The situation with Wright bears watching. Acquired in an offseason trade with Golden State, Wright has one of those coveted expiring contracts that could make him trade bait as the Feb. 21 deadline approaches.

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Noel, Brown have had open dialogue about Sixers' big man situation

Noel, Brown have had open dialogue about Sixers' big man situation

GALLOWAY, N.J. — Nerlens Noel’s recent comments on the logjam of big men on the Sixers' roster did not come as news to head coach Brett Brown. While Noel had not been this publicly outspoken on the issue, he and Brown have been having open discussions about it. 

“I have been talking to Nerlens a lot and I have a fondness for him,” Brown said Tuesday on the first day of training camp. “I don’t begrudge Nerlens Noel at all for what he said. I don’t have any problems with it.”

The Sixers' crowded frontcourt this season is a continuation of last season’s conundrum in which Brown was tasked with playing Noel and Jahlil Okafor, two natural centers, together. The depth has increased with the return of Joel Embiid and additions of Dario Saric and Ben Simmons. 

So when Noel doubled down on Monday by saying, "I don't see a way it can work,” Brown recognized where the center's opinions were coming from as he enters his fourth season in the NBA. 

“I feel if we do anything well, we communicate with our players freely,” Brown said. “It is one hundred percent transparent — hard conversations ahead, easy conversations ahead. I have spoken with Nerlens about this a lot. 

“My messaging and my mood and attitude and things that come out of my mouth haven’t changed once. I feel very confident that I’m giving him the advice that he should hear from me and it still allows me to do my job. 

“We have talked about it freely, like I have talked about it with Jahlil and Joel. Those situations are part of pro sports. They’re ever-present with me and us right now.”

Noel has been a rare mainstay among a revolving door of players over the past three years. He is in a unique situation with Brown in that the two have experienced a long list of the team’s ups and downs together. Noel feels comfortable talking honestly with Brown about his viewpoints. 

“I’ve known Brett probably longer than most guys here and we’ve built a different type of relationship,” Noel said. “It’s been very front and forward and we talk and we keep it real. That’s what he’s been doing with me and that’s why I’m able to continue to talk to him about myself and him just telling me what position I’ll be in — he’ll try to put me in — to succeed.”

With Brown having an understanding of Noel, his focus is on what Noel can bring to the team this season. He believes Noel has an edge over Embiid and Okafor for minutes early on because Noel is the only one among the trio starting camp without restrictions from previous injuries. 

There is a tough competition for playing time among the bigs, and camp is about proving oneself through basketball, not through personal opinions. Brown was impressed on the first day of camp by the manner in which Noel approached the morning practice amid the comments.

“He has handled it with me and in the training session today like a pro,” Brown said. “He came to mean it. He didn’t back down at all. There was no moping or sulking or him being stubborn. He played. That’s what he has to do. I think that’s a real reflection of anybody of how you handle adversity. Today he handled it like a true pro and a true competitor.”

Bovada projects Nets, not Sixers, to finish at bottom of division, conference

Bovada projects Nets, not Sixers, to finish at bottom of division, conference

The Sixers finished in the basement of the NBA standings last season with a league-low 10 wins. But with the influx of young talent and addition of a couple veterans to the roster, the Las Vegas oddsmakers are betting on the Sixers to make some strides upward in the 2016-17 standings.  

Last week, the WestGate Superbook in Las Vegas set the Sixers' over/under for wins this season at an optimistic 27½, which was the fourth-lowest projection in the league.

Similarly, while Bovada is projecting another season of basketball filled with mostly losses in Philadelphia, the sportsbook doesn't view the Sixers as a shoo-in to finish as the league's worst team for the second consecutive year.

Per Bovada, the Sixers have the fourth-longest odds (125/1) to capture the Atlantic Divison title for the first time since 2001-02, beating out the Nets (250/1) by a considerable margin.

The favorite to win the division is the Celtics at 20/21, trailed closely by the defending division champion Raptors (21/20). The Knicks are between the Raptors and Sixers at 10/1.

The Sixers (150/1) also edged out the Nets (200/1) in odds to win the Eastern Conference championship. The two teams in the conference directly ahead of the Sixers in that futures bet are the Hornets (100/1) and Magic (50/1).

The Cavaliers are the favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference at 5/11, followed by the Celtics (5/1) and Raptors (14/1).

Least surprising of all futures odds, Bovada has the Sixers tied with four other teams for the longest odds to win the NBA title. The Nuggets, Kings, Nets and Suns were tied with the Sixers at 500/1 odds to win the Larry O'Brien trophy.

The early favorites to win it all are the same two teams that met in the 2016 NBA Finals. The Warriors are alone at top with the shortest odds at 4/5 trailed by the Cavaliers at 3/1.